Tag Archive | john piper

That’s how you got saved

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John Piper:

Christianity is not the conclusion at the end of a syllogism. It is a meeting with God. It is a living supernatural power, called the Holy Spirit, moving into our hearts, shedding abroad the love of God experientially…

So Christianity, While not being merely the conclusion at the end of an argument is neither an experience at the end of a needle… Christianity is a supernatural experience of the Holy Spirit mediating the love of God to you through a historical person who did a historical act, namely, dying and rising to bear your sin…

To become a Christian is not to draw a conclusion at the end of a syllogism and sign a card that you think it is good logic. That makes nobody a Christian. To be a Christian is as the syllogism unfolds the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the heart so that in the truth of the gospel being presented… as the gospel is unfolded and the historical events of Jesus embodying the love of God are pointed to the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of your heart and you see them as glorious, true, beautiful. You see God in Christ and He stands forth in those historical facts mediated along the news of the gospel into your mind and then down into your heart as the Holy Spirit pours out the love of God as your eyes are opened by the Spirit to see the love of God as the most precious treasure in all the world. That’s how you got saved.

Sermons from John Piper (1990–1999): Romans 5:3-8 – God Demonstrates His Love Toward Us (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 1999).

(HT: The Cross Quoter)

Ten Lessons from a Hospital Bed

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Lessons learned by John Piper through a recent spell in hospital:

1. Don’t murmur about delays and inefficiencies in the hospital, when you are getting medical care that surpasses by a hundredfold what is available in 90% of the world.

2. Don’t let yourself be numbed spiritually by the ceaseless barrage of sounds, noises, television, and chatter that surround you in the hospital.

3. Don’t default to the television.

4. Pray for the patients near you and, if possible — without undue offense — see if your roommate will let you pray for him, and tell him words of hope in Jesus.

5. Realize that physical pain makes focusing on God’s promises more difficult and demands greater concentrating effort.

6. Reach out to a friend or family member to help you.

7. Accept the humiliation of wearing the same unflattering gown everyone else wears.

8. Let the pain and misery of your body, and of the people around you, remind you of the exceeding moral horror and spiritual ugliness of sin.

9. Let the self-revelation of Jesus as the good physician be sweet to your soul, and preach to yourself that this light momentary affliction is working for you an eternal weight of glory.

10. Pray that none of these hospital hours, none of this pain, none of these fears, none of these relationships, none of this life-altering season will be wasted.

You can read the whole thing here.

Believer, Become What You Are

John Piper:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2)

Believer, you died and the new you is alive, and you are God’s. The whole of our Christian life is learning to become — by God’s Spirit — what we already are in Christ. These verses show us how this newness in us comes to life in our everyday choices. In this four-minute video, John Piper explains how the Spirit within and the word of God without work together to make us new.

Piper’s Five Points

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Rick Ianniello summarises John Piper on the 5 points:

“I have found … that people grasp these points more easily if we go in the order in which we ourselves often experience them when we become Christians.”

  1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
  2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
  3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
  4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
  5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

In short, here is how he explains each of the points:

  1. Total Depravity: Our sinful corruption is so deep and so strong as to make us slaves of sin and morally unable to overcome our own rebellion and blindness. This inability to save ourselves from ourselves is total. We are utterly dependent on God’s grace to overcome our rebellion, give us eyes to see, and effectively draw us to the Savior.
  2. Unconditional Election: God’s election is an unconditional act of free grace that was given through his Son Jesus before the world began. By this act, God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin and brought to repentance and saving faith in Jesus.
  3. Limited Atonement: The atonement of Christ is sufficient for all humans and effective for those who trust him. It is not limited in its worth or sufficiency to save all who believe. But the full, saving effectiveness of the atonement that Jesus accomplished is limited to those for whom that saving effect was prepared. The availability of the total sufficiency of the atonement is for all people. Whosoever will—whoever believes—will be covered by the blood of Christ. And there is a divine design in the death of Christ to accomplish the promises of the new covenant for the chosen bride of Christ. Thus Christ died for all people, but not for all in the same way.
  4. Irresistible Grace: This means that the resistance that all human beings exert against God every day (Rom. 3:10-12Acts 7:51) is wonderfully overcome at the proper time by God’s saving grace for undeserving rebels whom he chooses freely to save.
  5. Perseverance of the Saints: We believe that all who are justified will win the fight of faith. They will persevere in faith and will not surrender finally to the enemy of their souls. This perseverance is the promise of the new covenant, obtained by the blood of Christ, and worked in us by God himself, yet not so as to diminish, but only to empower and encourage our vigilance; so that we may say in the end, I have fought the good fight, but it was not I, but the grace of God which was with me (2 Tim. 4:71 Cor. 15:10).

Preach to the Affections, Don’t Manipulate Them

Matt Smethurst:

Should preachers aim for the affections? Is this even possible without resorting to manipulation techniques? In a new roundtable video, John Piper, Voddie Baucham, and Miguel Núñez—all Council members for The Gospel Coalition—explore differences between “working the crowd” and awakening authentic, God-honoring emotion.

“As long as preaching unpacks the greatness of God, the emotions should be moved,” Núñez observes. Faithful exposition, then, is a excellent way to cultivate godly affection and safeguard against squalid manipulation.

A bored preacher misrepresents the God he proclaims, Piper adds, since God is not boring. Moreover, he explains, “the difference between emotion and emotionalism is whether you’ve awakened it with truth.”

Baucham references a complaint sometimes voiced in more traditionally emotional (e.g., black and Latino) cultures that emphasizing truth and theology amounts to “denying your culture, your heritage, your ethnicity.” But the call to awaken affections with biblical truth is not culturally specific. As Piper quips, “I want to be known as the best black preacher there ever was.”

Watch the full 12-minute video to hear these three preachers discuss Grand Canyon moments, when God looks boring, and more.

Preaching to the affections from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

God Is Not an Idolator

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John Piper:

People stumble over the teaching that God exalts his own glory and seeks to be praised by his people because the Bible teaches us not to be like that. For example, the Bible says that love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5see NASB).

How can God be loving and yet be utterly devoted to “seeking his own” glory and praise and joy? How can God be for us if he is so utterly for himself?

The answer I propose is this: Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, he must be for himself if he is to be for us. The rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator.

If God should turn away from himself as the Source of infinite joy, he would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of his own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside himself. He would commit idolatry.

This would be no gain for us. For where can we go when our God has become unrighteous? Where will we find a Rock of integrity in the universe when the heart of God has ceased to value supremely the supremely valuable? Where shall we turn with our adoration when God himself has forsaken the claims of infinite worth and beauty?

No, we do not turn God’s self-exaltation into love by demanding that God cease to be God. Instead, we must come to see that God is love precisely because he relentlessly pursues the praises of his name in the hearts of his people.

The Value of Biblical Truth

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John Piper:

Would You Know a Revival If You Saw One?

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J. I. Packer:

Would we recognize a reviving of religion if we were part of one?

I ask myself that question. For more than half a century the need of such reviving in the places where I have lived, worshiped, and worked has weighed me down.

I have read of past revivals. I have learned, through a latter-day revival convert from Wales, that there is a tinc in the air, a kind of moral and spiritual electricity, when God’s close presence is enforcing his Word.

I have sat under the electrifying ministry of the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who as it were brought God into the pulpit with him and let him loose on the listeners. Lloyd-Jones’s ministry blessed many, but he never believed he was seeing the revival he sought.

I have witnessed remarkable evangelical advances, not only academic but also pastoral, with churches growing spectacularly through the gospel on both sides of the Atlantic and believers maturing in the life of repentance as well as in the life of joy.

Have I seen revival? I think not—but would I know? From a distance, the difference between the ordinary and extraordinary working of God’s Spirit looks like black and white, a difference of kind; to Edwards, however, at close range, it appeared a matter of degree, as his Narrative and his Brainerd volume (to look no further) make clear.

Some evangelicals need to be asked, Are you not expecting too little from God in the way of moral transformation?

But others need to be asked, Are you not expecting too much from God in the way of situational drama?

Do we always know when we are in a revival situation?

— J.I. Packer, “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion: A Study in the Mind of Jonathan Edwards,” in A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), 107-108.

He Loved Me and Gave Himself for Me

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John Piper:

I want believers in Christ to enjoy being loved by God to the greatest degree possible. And I want God to be magnified to the greatest degree possible for loving us the way he does. This is why it matters to me what Jesus really accomplished for us when he died.

There is a common way of thinking about Christ’s death that diminishes our experience of his love. It involves thinking that the death of Christ expressed no more love for me than for anyone else in the human race. If that’s the way you think about God’s love for you in the death of Jesus, you will not enjoy being loved by God as greatly as you really are.

Feeling Specially Loved by God

I wonder if you have ever felt especially loved by God because of Ephesians 2:4–5? “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”

Six things stand out here in Ephesians 2:4–5.

1. The phrase “great love.”

“Because of the great love with which he loved us.” That phrase is used only here in the New Testament. Let it sink in. God loves his own with a “great love.” Surely Paul writes this so that we will enjoy being greatly loved.

2. The peculiar greatness of this love that moves God to “make us alive.”

Because of the great love with which he loved us, God made us alive.” His great love is thecause of our life. Our life did not cause the greatness of his love for us. It’s the other way around. The greatness of his love made us alive.

3. Before he made us alive, we were “dead.”

“Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive.” There is such a thing as the living dead. Jesus said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60). Before God made us alive, we were the living dead.

We could breathe and think and feel and will. But we were spiritually dead. We were blind to the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3–4); we were stone-hearted to his law and could not submit to him (Ephesians 4:18Romans 8:7–8); and we were not able to discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14). Only God could overcome this deadness so that we could see the glory of Christ and believe (2 Corinthians 4:6). That’s what he did when he “made us alive” (Ephesians 2:5).

4. God does not make everyone alive.

What happened to you, to bring you to faith, has not happened to everyone. And remember, you don’t deserve to be made alive. You were dead. You were “by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). You did not do anything to move God to make you alive. That’s what it means to be dead.

5. Therefore, God’s great love for you is really for you, particularly for you.

It is not a general love for everyone. Otherwise, everyone would be spiritually alive. He chose specifically to make you alive. You did not deserve this any more than anyone else. But for unfathomable reasons, he set his great love particularly on you.

6. He has wronged no one. For no one deserves to be saved.

No one deserves to be made alive. We have all sinned and deserve death (Romans 3:23;6:23). He could have left all of us in the deadness of our rebellion, and done no wrong.

But if you have seen the wisdom of his cross, and trusted his promise, and treasured his glory, he has made you alive. Unlike many others, no more dead than you, you have beengreatly loved.

The Special Love of the New Covenant

Now here is the connection with the death of Christ. When Jesus died, he secured for us the removal of our deadness, and purchased for us the gift of life and faith. In other words, God’s “great love” could make us alive, because in Christ that same great love had provided the punishment of all our sins and the provision of all our righteousness.

We know this because Jesus said at the Last Supper, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). The blood of Jesus is the price God paid to establish the new covenant. And the new covenant, at its heart, is God’s securing, by the blood of Jesus, living hearts for dead sinners.

“I will make a new covenant. . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:3134). “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezekiel 36:27).

Jesus Purchased the Activation

This is what Jesus bought for us when he died. And this is what the great love of God did for us when he made us alive in Christ Jesus. Therefore, God’s specific purpose in the death of Jesus was not the same for everyone. The great love of God, shown for you in the death of Jesus, was the purchase of your faith when you were dead.

He did not merely purchase the possibility of your life that you then would activate. Dead people don’t activate. What he purchased was the activation. Christ did not purchase the possibility for you to raise yourself from the dead. He purchased your resurrection. Because of a great love for you in particular.

Feel the Greatness of His Love for You

So when Ephesians 2:4–5 says, “Because of the great love with which he loved us, God made us alive,” and Luke 22:20 says, the blood of Jesus establishes the new covenant, andEzekiel 11:19 says that in the new covenant God gives us living hearts, we know that the blood-shedding of Jesus was an expression of the great love that made us alive.

Whatever else the death of Christ does or is, it is not less than this. And this is what I want every believer to enjoy. The great love of God for you is not the same as the love he has for the whole human race. The love God has for you moved him to make you alive when you could do nothing to make yourself alive. And that same love moved him to purchase your life by the death of his Son.

So when you say with the apostle Paul, “He loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20), feel the greatness of the words, “He loved me.” He loved me.

Bringing Jesus into Focus

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John Piper:

If you ever wondered why we at Desiring God write so much about doctrinal particularities, here’s one answer.

If glory includes beauty, as I wrote last week, it includes lines. They may be curved or straight. But without lines there is no form. You would never see a cloud, if there were no border to it. The whole sky would be one color. You would never see the sun or the moon or a baseball, if there were no circumference. Never see an oak leaf, if there were no fingered outline. Never see a human face, if the cheeks and nose and brow and chin had no edge.

Therefore the glory of Christ has lines. Without them, “glory” is just a word. These lines define forms of beauty. Aspects of glory. Particularities that can be seen and enjoyed. This is who Jesus is. He is not a vague glory. He is a glorious coherence of particular glories that have lines.

[...]

Jesus is real. He is not a smudge of wonder. As you turn the lens of Scripture correctly, he comes into amazing focus, yes, even with our present limitations (1 Corinthians 13:12). We do not worship a formless glory.

So look for the lines, the form, the particularities of his person, his specific beauties.

I am praying that my pastor and the church I love would live for

  • the glory of the Jesus who was in the beginning with God and was God (John 1:1).
  • the glory of the Jesus who shed his blood to seal the new covenant for his people (Luke 22:20).
  • the glory of the Jesus who said, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15).
  • the glory of the Jesus who said, “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).
  • the glory of the Jesus who said, “You do not believe because you are not among my sheep” (John 10:26).
  • the glory of the Jesus who said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37).
  • the glory of the Jesus who said, “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65).
  • The glory of the Jesus who wept over Jerusalem, saying, “Would that you had known the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41–42).

So when you pray, and when you worship, remember there is no beauty without lines. And there are ways to draw the lines of glory that are not the glory of Christ. Know your Bible well. Trace its lines. And worship this Christ

Piper on Calvinism

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New Course on Calvinism from John Piper.

The Bible gives us a glorious vision of God’s sovereignty in saving sinners. “Calvinism” is a kind of nickname for this Christian body of doctrine on salvation that so appropriately humbles humanity and so magnificently exalts divine grace.

In a new eight-hour course on Calvinism, or “the doctrines of grace,” John Piper walks through the historical “five points,” digging into text after text of Scripture and responding to many of the most common questions.

“The doctrines of grace,” Piper explains, “give the lowest view of the saved person as utterly depraved and hopeless in himself, and the highest view of the saved person as individually chosen and loved and purchased at infinite cost.”

These truths expose our desperate neediness, such that the subtlest form of boasting in ourselves becomes ridiculous. And at the same time, they highlight the grace of God such that we marvel with the apostle Paul, “To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36).

Stream or download the entire seminar in six parts:

TULIP (Part 1) — Introduction: Why Is Calvinism Relevant?

This class is devoted to building foundations under Romans 8:28 so we can survive. If you think we’re in this for fun and games, for a kind of theological ear-scratching, you don’t understand anything. The things that come at us in our lives cannot be managed by fluff. These are survival techniques.

TULIP (Part 2) — Irresistible Grace (Piper starts with “I”)

God’s saving grace can be resisted and will be resisted by all human beings until God acts to overcome the resistance. When God decides to overcome your resistance to anything he can do it, without turning you into a robot.

TULIP (Part 3) — Irresistible Grace continued; Total Depravity

Christians ought to be supremely concerned about the invisible aspects of our nature. And I am arguing that when we get there, it’s really bad. . . . I don’t think most Americans feel nearly bad enough about how bad we are.

TULIP (Part 4) — Total Depravity continued; Unconditional Election

The reason we come to Jesus is because we belong to God… The call of God provides the decisive cause of faith.

TULIP (Part 5) — Unconditional Election continued; Limited Atonement

How do we know if we are the elect? Are you calling God “Father?” Do you call Jesus your Lord? You pursue the knowledge of your election indirectly. You pursue it by submitting to the lordship of Jesus and you pursue it by embracing God as your Father through Jesus Christ and his atoning work.

TULIP (Part 6) — Limited Atonement continued; Perseverance of the Saints

I love the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. The older I get the more I love it. In a sense you should love it when you are young because it is the reason you can believe you’ll be a Christian in 60 years. But once you have lived those 60 years you look back and say, “Amazing. He is amazing.”

John Piper Quotes

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My thanks to Rick Ianniello for posting this.

For those that enjoy Piper and quotes, here’s 20 Tweetable John Piper Quotes by Jared Totten:

  1. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
  2. All heroes are shadows of Christ.
  3. Sin is what you feel and think and do when you are not taking God at His Word and resting in His promises.
  4. Sin is what you do when you are not satisfied in God.
  5. Prayer causes things to happen that wouldn’t happen if the prayer doesn’t happen.
  6. Until you know that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for.
  7. Satan wants you, and God wants you. The one with sadistic hate. The other with sacrificial love.
  8. God does not kill joy. He kills sin. That is, he kills what will finally kill all joy.
  9. If you live gladly to make others glad in God, life will be hard, risks will be high, and your joy will be full.
  10. A God-centered God created a God-centered cosmos that he saves by a God-centered cross.
  11. The end of the creation is that God may communicate happiness to the creature.
  12. Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak.
  13. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.
  14. I measure Your love for me by the magnitude of the wrath I deserved and the wonder of Your mercy by putting Christ in my place.
  15. The climax of God’s happiness is the delight He takes in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of His people.
  16. The goal of preaching is the glory of God reflected in the glad submission of his creation.
  17. The cross is not a mere event in history; it’s a way of life! “Take up your cross daily” Jesus said!
  18. Relativism no longer means: your claim to truth is no more valid than mine; but now means: you may not claim to speak the truth.
  19. Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.
  20. Strong affections for God, rooted in and shaped by the truth of Scripture – this is the bone and marrow of biblical worship.

The Thrilling “Now” of Christian Mission

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John Piper:

Just think of it. The God of the universe focused his special revelation and redeeming work on one small ethnic people, Israel, for 2,000 years — from the calling of Abram in Genesis 12 to the coming of Christ. For all that time “he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16).

Then at the entry of his Son into the world, all this changed.

As Jesus was leaving to return to heaven he said, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [my] name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This was a pivotal change in the history of the world.

God’s Careful Planning

But the command to disciple all the nations was not an afterthought. It was the plan from the moment God chose Israel. God said to Abram, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

Then Paul applied this to the gospel of justification through faith in Christ: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’” (Galatians 3:8). So God was getting ready to reach the nations with the gospel of Christ when he chose Abram 2,000 years before Christ came.

Why, then, such a long delay, before Christ came and the Great Commission was given in his name?

Why the Long Delay?

Because in God’s wisdom he knew that the nations of the world would grasp the nature of Christ and his work better against the backdrop of Israel’s 2,000 year history of law and grace, faith and failure, sacrifice and atonement, wisdom and prophecy, mercy and judgment.

Here’s the way Paul put it in Romans 3:19–20: “Whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.” In other words, God spoke for 2,000 years to Israel so that the “whole world” would realize that there is no hope of getting right with God through “works done by us in righteousness” (Titus 3:5).

Lesson Book for the Nations

Israel’s history is not just about Israel. It’s about “every mouth” and “the whole world.” This was not a 2,000-year detour. God was writing a lesson book for the nations. It’s not an accident that our Bible has the Old Testament in it.

When Paul preached to the non-Jewish Greeks on Mars Hill, he said that up till now the “times of ignorance” held sway. God had let them go their own way. But no more. “Now God commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31).

The “Now” of All Nations

This is the “now” we live it. And it is a thrilling “now.” “Now God commands all people everywhere to repent.” The risen Christ authorizes this command. He will be with us in its fulfillment.

We live in the “now” of  “all nations.” God prepared for this moment for 2,000 years before Christ. He has been pursuing it for 2,000 years since Christ. Jesus is alive and mighty to save. And it is harvest time.

 

When the Christian Life Becomes Impossible

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Jonathan Parnell:

“Christian Hedonism is a liberating and devastating doctrine,” John Piper writes.

It teaches that the value of God shines more brightly in the soul that finds deepest satisfaction in him. Therefore it is liberating because it endorses our inborn desire for joy. And it is devastating because it reveals that no one desires God with the passion he demands. Paradoxically, many people experience both of these truths. That certainly is my own experience.

So begins his book When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. I’ve hardly read anything that resonates with my soul the way this book does. The command to enjoy God — as right and central as it is biblically — is beyond our ability to perform. Piper explains what that discovery is like: “The Christian life became impossible. That is, it became supernatural.”

We simply can’t flip a switch to make our hearts love God the way he deserves. Our only hope of delighting in God is God himself giving the help. Piper writes, “God would have to transform my heart to do what a heart cannot make itself do, namely, want what it ought to want. Only God can make the depraved heart desire God.”

Amen, but what about us? Can we do anything? Relying completely on God’s grace, what are the means of grace and patterns of thinking to which we should avail ourselves in faith? That is what When I Don’t Desire God is about — how to fight for joy.

So we’re excited to say that you can now watch John Piper teach through the entire content online.

In 2005, Pastor John led a regional conference on this theme which was turned into a DVD product. Desiring God recently acquired the footage from that resource and has now transferred it completely to our site for free streaming and audio or video download.

The Difference between Congregational Worship and a Concert

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Great post from Justin Taylor:

John Piper, writing in 2008:

Thirteen years ago we asked: What should be the defining sound of corporate worship at Bethlehem, besides the voice of biblical preaching?

We meant: Should it be pipe organ, piano, guitar, drums, choir, worship team, orchestra, etc. The answer we gave was “The people of Bethlehem singing.”

Some thought: That’s not much help in deciding which instruments should be used. Perhaps not. But it is massively helpful in clarifying the meaning of those moments.

If Bethlehem is not “singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart,” (Ephesians 5:19), it’s all over. We close up shop. This is no small commitment.

James K. A. Smith, writing last year, made a similar point. While there may be a few exceptions to what he says here, I think he’s exactly right with regard to the main thrurst of Christian congregational worship.

1. If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship.

Christian worship is not a concert. In a concert (a particular “form of performance”), we often expect to be overwhelmed by sound, particularly in certain styles of music. In a concert, we come to expect that weird sort of sensory deprivation that happens from sensory overload, when the pounding of the bass on our chest and the wash of music over the crowd leaves us with the rush of a certain aural vertigo. And there’s nothing wrong with concerts! It’s just that Christian worship is not a concert. Christian worship is a collective, communal, congregational practice–and the gathered sound and harmony of a congregation singing as one is integral to the practice of worship. It is a way of “performing” the reality that, in Christ, we are one body. But that requires that we actually be able to hear ourselves, and hear our sisters and brothers singing alongside us. When the amped sound of the praise band overwhelms congregational voices, we can’t hear ourselves sing–so we lose that communal aspect of the congregation and are encouraged to effectively become “private,” passive worshipers.

2. If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship.

In other forms of musical performance, musicians and bands will want to improvise and “be creative,” offering new renditions and exhibiting their virtuosity with all sorts of different trills and pauses and improvisations on the received tune. Again, that can be a delightful aspect of a concert, but in Christian worship it just means that we, the congregation, can’t sing along. And so your virtuosity gives rise to our passivity; your creativity simply encourages our silence. And while you may be worshiping with your creativity, the same creativity actually shuts down congregational song.

3. If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship.

I know it’s generally not your fault that we’ve put you at the front of the church. And I know you want to model worship for us to imitate. But because we’ve encouraged you to basically import forms of performance from the concert venue into the sanctuary, we might not realize that we’ve also unwittingly encouraged a sense that you are the center of attention. And when your performance becomes a display of your virtuosity—even with the best of intentions—it’s difficult to counter the temptation to make the praise band the focus of our attention. When the praise band goes into long riffs that you might intend as “offerings to God,” we the congregation become utterly passive, and because we’ve adopted habits of relating to music from the Grammys and the concert venue, we unwittingly make you the center of attention. I wonder if there might be some intentional reflection on placement (to the side? leading from behind?) and performance that might help us counter these habits we bring with us to worship.

You can read the whole thing here.

The Supremacy of Christ

Sermon jam from John Piper:

(HT: Tim Brister)

Focused Marriage

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John Piper from This Momentary Marriage:

Marriage is not mainly about prospering economically; it is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. Knowing Christ is more important than making a living. Treasuring Christ is more important than bearing children.

If we make secondary things primary, they cease to be secondary and become idolatrous. They have their place. But they are not first, and they are not guaranteed. Life is precarious, and even if it is long by human standards, it is short. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Prov. 27:1).

It may have many bright days, or it may be covered with clouds. If we make secondary things primary, we will be embittered at the sorrows we must face. But if we set our face to make of marriage mainly what God designed it to be, no sorrows and no calamities can stand in our way. Every one of them will be, not an obstacle to success, but a way to succeed. The beauty of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church shines brightest when nothing but Christ can sustain it.

(HT: Rick Ianniello)

Piper on the Life and Ministry of Charles Spurgeon

Plenty of encouragement here for the Christian who wants to honour God in the way they believe and live, and for the pastor who wants to glorify God in his ministry.

Watch above as John Piper lectures at Reformed Theological Seminary (April 10, 2013) on the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon. (You can find audio and the manuscript of an earlier edition of this talk here.)

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Jesus is the glory of God

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Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Jesus Christ, the Person, never had a beginning. He is absolute Reality. He has the unparalleled honor and unique glory of being there first and always. He never came into being. He was eternally begotten. The Father has eternally enjoyed ‘the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature’ (Hebrews 1:3) in the Person of his Son.

Seeing and savoring this glory is the goal of our salvation. ‘Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me’ (John 17:24). To feast on this forever is the aim of our being created and our being redeemed.


— John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2001), 31

(HT: Of First Importance)

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